Sarcophagus of Wahibreemakhet

Rijksmuseum van Oudheden

Rijksmuseum van Oudheden
Leiden, Netherlands

In the so-called Saitic period large stone sarcophagi came into vogue again in Egypt. The period is sometimes termed the Saitic renaissance, because of the renewed flourishing and re-interpretation of cultural traditions from the past. The sarcophagus of Wahibreemakhet, who hailed from a Greek immigrant family, is made of solid basalt. Although Wahibreemakhet himself was named after the Saitic Pharaoh Apries, he gives Arkskares and Sentiti as his parents’ names. The Greek names Alexikles and Zenodote have been recognized in these.
At the time, Egypt maintained close relations with Greek cities. Many Greeks enlisted in the Egyptian armies as mercenaries, or hoped to make their fortune as merchants in the capital Memphis. The city even saw the establishment of a Greek quarter. Moreover, many Greeks settled in the free port of Naukratis and elsewhere in the Nile delta.
This Greek origin is not apparent from the sarcophagus’ exterior. The decoration is thoroughly Egyptian, featuring a divine beard and a braided wig, the celestial goddess Nut portrayed on the chest, and the Sons of Horus and other gods and demons below it. The sarcophagus probably originates from Saqqara or Gizeh. In this case, not a single part of a wooden inner coffin or of the mummy itself has remained, but statuettes of Wahibreemakhet (shabti figurines) are known to exist.


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